A report by the Daily Mirror clearly demonstrates the culture of greed and self-interest of members of the current government as one of Britain’s richest MP’s increases rents after buying a social housing estate in East London. One resident called it than ‘social cleansing’.
By Nick Sommerland, The Daily Mirror, 29th June 2014
Devastated families are facing being evicted after the inherited estate of Britain’s richest MP bought a stake in their homes.
Tory Richard Benyon’s £110million family firm is part of a consortium that snapped up the housing estate and announced plans for a massive rent hike.
Up to 90 households in East London fear the Benyons’ plan to charge “market rents” will treble their bills.
The New Era Estate, in Hoxton, has a long history of providing affordable housing and has been home to some people for 70 years.
Distraught Debra Cox, 49, who has lived there for 18 years, said: “This is social cleansing – this has always been a form of social housing and they just want rid of us.
“I have been to the council and was told we don’t have a chance of being rehoused.”
Soaring house prices have driven ordinary families out of vast swathes of the UK – particularly the capital where the average price of a home rocketed by 18.5% last year.
Britain’s housing crisis is worsened by weak legal protection for private tenants, who can be forced out of homes they have lived in for years at a few weeks’ notice.
At a heated meeting on Thursday, teaching assistant Debra told the new landlord: “You do realise that as soon as you put them on at market value, whenever that may be, myself, my husband and my 18-year-old daughter will be homeless?”
Her husband Gary, 50, fumed: “My wife had a seizure during the night brought on by the stress.
“My wife is ill and I am going to lose my f*****g flat because of you and your mates.”
Berkshire MP Benyon is a director of his family’s 300-year-old Englefield Estate, which owns 20,000 acres of land from Hampshire to Scotland.
Its portfolio includes the 250-property Benyon Estate in East London which is now a “minority shareholder” in the flats on the New Era Estate.
His brother Edward Benyon confirmed the family was part of the consortium during the meeting.
He also announced plans to refurbish the 1930s homes and build more flats on the roof.
Edward added: “The goal, which is something I have had to say to all of you, is the fact that the rents will be going to market value.”
He refused to confirm future rents but the Benyons have already hiked them by 10% this year.
Edward said: “Bearing in mind the rents were so far below market value we considered a 10% rise to be fair.”
One resident said: “When Edward Benyon came up to my flat he actually said that next year would be a lot more.”
Edward replied: “I’m not going to sit here now and tell you it’s going to be double, quadruple, whatever it’s going to be.”
He caused uproar when he was asked about eviction and said: “We’ve never evicted anybody because when people haven’t been able to afford to pay the rent they’ve moved out.”
One resident said: “What if they’ve got nowhere to go?”
And a second added: “You really don’t give a sh*t do you?”
Edward promised “we are not going to keep anything hidden” and claimed “there are a number of people who wanted to buy this block of flats who wanted to knock it down”.
Local Labour MP Meg Hillier said the loss of affordable housing was “hollowing out the community”.
She said: “Any landlord with any moral fibre would consider that these are people’s homes not just properties.
“The Government seems to think that the market can deliver for people on low incomes and it can’t.
“The toffs on the front bench don’t have a clue how people are living.”
When the Benyon Estate discovered the Mirror was investigating, it demanded “details of any named contributors” to this story.
Despite this, dozens of residents wanted to talk to us.
Single mum Lindsey Garrett has lived on the estate with her parents all her life.
She works as a care co-ordinator for the local NHS trust.
But the market rent on a two-bed flat in Hoxton is now more than her take-home wage.
Lindsey said: “It has been terrifying, horrific. We are completely devastated.
“I haven’t been able to sleep with the thought of being homeless. My dad’s disabled and I don’t know where we are all going to end up.”
Since she moved in, the Benyon Estate has raised Lindsay’s rent from £668 a month to £796.
The average cost of a similar two-bedroom flat on Rightmove.com is nearly £2,000 a month.
Other residents include Ruth Jacobs, 84, who has lived on the estate for 70 years.
She said: “It is terrible. I got a letter two weeks ago. I don’t know what’s going to happen next.”
Gaye Studman, 56, who lives with Malcolm Ryan, 58, and her daughter Angel Studman, 10, said: “They just want people with money in here.
“We’ve been told we have to be evicted by a bailiff together with our children before the council will help us.”
A Mirror investigation with the GMB union earlier this year revealed Benyon’s £110million estate has received hundreds of thousands of pounds of housing benefit – despite the MP attacking the “something for nothing” welfare state.
GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said of the latest revelation: “This is an absolute scandal.
“Affordable housing being destroyed and it’s coming from the very top of the Tory party who have no hesitation in dipping into taxpayers’ funds as they do it.
“Cameron should disown this fatcat profiteering MP. GMB will help the tenants in any way we can.”
On top of Mr Benyon’s haul from tenants and the taxpayer, his family farms received more than £2million in EU subsidies since 2000.
Edward Benyon said last night that New Era estate’s previous owners put it up for sale two years ago and sold it at “commercial market value for a substantial profit”.
He went on: “The Benyon Estate manages the property and undertook detailed independent reporting from surveyors on the state of the building, which showed several deficiencies consistent with its age including poor provision of heating and badly damaged windows.
“Any purchaser of the property would need to charge market rates of rent, however we have given tenants new contracts so they have another year to decide what they want to do.
“We have met each tenant personally to explain the situation and meetings are now taking place to help them in the future.”
He went on: “Richard is a firm supporter of the welfare state and the safety net it provides for people.
“On the advice of solicitors I requested the names of named contributors.
“Each individual is different and knowing the circumstances of persons who are speaking to you may have allowed us the opportunity to address to you specific points in relation to those individuals.”
Accounts of the New Era Estate’s previous owner, First LBS Holdings Limited, show it made a £306,865 profit and its shareholders received a £300,000 dividend last year.
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